Uhuru-Spirit News


December 10, 2013 | UhuruSpirit

South Africa's Higher Education Minister Dr Blade Nzimande

A Tribute to Nelson Mandela by the Higher Education Minister Dr. Blade Nzimande

We have lost the Father of the Nation and the first President of liberated South Africa, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela. President Mandela died peacefully at his home in Houghton, Johannesburg, on the evening of 5 December 2013. As government and as the Department of Higher Education and Training, we mourn the death of this gallant compatriot. He deserves to be known as South Africa's Founding President.

As a young man, he both observed and experienced the injustices that were suffered by Africans and other black people at the hands of successive white-supremacist governments. He realised that the oppressed people of South Africa would need to struggle and to make sacrifices to overcome the injustices they suffered.

He also came to realise that democratic-minded and anti-racist South Africans of all races would need to join together to strive for the end of apartheid and the establishment of a democratic society. As he came to this realisation, he committed the rest of his life to the struggle for the liberation of all South Africans.

He joined the African National Congress (ANC) in the mid-1940s and was one of the founding members of the ANC Youth League. As a dedicated member of the movement, in the 1950s and 1960s he played a leading role in the anti-pass and defiance campaigns, the bus boycotts and the underground activities of the ANC after its banning.

He was the first Commander in Chief of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the military wing of the liberation movement. Following the Rivonia treason trial, Mandela with his comrades such as Govan Mbeki, Walter Sisulu and Andrew Mlangeni received life sentences for their political beliefs and in 1964 they were incarcerated on the notorious Robben Island.

An outstanding leader and statesman revered across the world, Mandela put the interests of the nation above everything, even family. He was a visionary, freedom fighter, intellectual, man of integrity and an embodiment of ANC values.

He combined this with honesty, humility, modesty and forgiveness. In the spirit of nation building and rejecting any suggestion of revenge, upon his release from prison in 1990, he led the liberation movement in difficult negotiations with the apartheid regime to find a peaceful solution to South Africa's problems.

Mandela was passionate about education and continued to study whilst in prison, earning an LLB. Under his government from 1994, the education system of South Africa began its process of transformation after years of reeling under the degrading system of Bantu Education. His administration created one national department of education from the fragmented system it inherited, de-racialising and de-tribalising education.

He never missed an opportunity to tell our youth and all our people about how important education is. It was under him as ANC President, prior to 1994, that we pressurized the apartheid regime to introduce loans and bursaries for poor, mainly black, students.

This led to the establishment of the Tertiary Education Fund for South Africa (TEFSA), a forerunner to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) formed in 1999, which is in 2013 worth R8 billion, and both have supported in excess of 1, 4 million poor students to access higher education.

Mandela has left an indelible mark on the country and the world. His deeds are etched in our minds forever. Let us continue to build from where Mandela has left us, upholding his legacy. As a department, we must continue with educational transformation for the benefit of all South Africans.

We must ensure that we achieve our vision of an equitable, expanded, high-quality integrated, higher education and training system so as to provide opportunities for all - and especially our youth - to realise their potential and to contribute to a better life for themselves, their families and their country. This is the best tribute we can pay to Madiba.

May Mandela's soul rest in peace - Hamba Kahle Madiba - Siyabonga.

Dr Blade Nzimande is the Minister of Higher Education

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